The Courage to Listen

Too often, we read about survivor’s stories as if they are something other, something outside of ourselves, or perhaps the survivors we learn about remain both nameless and faceless – held at such a distance from our own experience that we simply cannot connect. At times, the stories we read reflect far too intimately, like a mirror, the shadows of our own sexual traumas, and for the purposes of our own short-term self-preservation, we choose not to connect. Sharing that intimate space of the theater with survivors expressing the complex reality of their own experiences creates an atmosphere where those who do not know sexual violence intimately (as survivors themselves) have an unparalleled lens into what it looks like, feels like and sounds like. The injuries of sexual trauma and the capacity of resilience literally shows up in the way we carry our bodies, the way we move or do not move and the vast variety of facial expressions we develop to communicate our loss, our confusion, our anger and our power.

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Contemplating Forgiveness After Sexual Abuse

Can we remain wounded and simultaneously extend genuine forgiveness? Is forgiveness something we offer outwards or something that we cultivate for ourselves inside? From what part of our mind, our heart, our unconscious knowing – does that sentiment arise? How do we distinguish the degree to which our inability to forgive, our insistence that we cannot forgive, or our simple lack of impulse to forgive, is impacting our possibilities for healing? What is the practice and what is the process that mentors us along this difficult inquiry to define what it means to forgive? Who is it we need to forgive, are drawn to forgive, and why? 

I have had a difficult time, tangibly experienced in the immediate escalation of my heart rate, with the casual concept of forgiving the person(s) that committed such pervasive atrocity/ies against and upon our bodies, our mind and our souls. I tread cautiously into this realm as questions, upset, and confusion start to stir inside. Since we all operate with our own definition of forgiveness, we are not necessarily sharing in an equivalent inquiry into its meaning and relevance in our healing and in this setting, miscommunication, along with unnecessary hurt can abound. I am still working this out slowly and contemplating whether and if forgiveness, which feels still so very hard for me to grasp, and compassion, something I more naturally touch into, will eventually collide.

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